Dairy hardship fund welcomed but 'more may be needed'

A support package to help English dairy farmers hit by an economic storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been unveiled
A support package to help English dairy farmers hit by an economic storm caused by the coronavirus pandemic has been unveiled

Farming groups have welcomed the government's hardship fund for dairy producers but warned that more may be needed.

Dairy farmers in England will be entitled to claim up to £10,000 each to cover 70% of their lost income during April and May, Defra announced.

Producers who have lost more than 25% of their income over April and May due to the disruptions will be eligible to access the fund for those qualifying months.

No cap will be set on the number of farmers who can receive this support or on the total funding available.



The sector has seen a significant decrease in foodservice sector demand for products as a direct result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Welcoming the announcement, the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) said it is 'thankful' to the government for taking the dairy sector's needs 'seriously'.



It warned, however, that should farmers continue to be impacted for a longer period of time, additional support would be needed.

RABDF chairman Peter Alvis said: “We would like Defra to keep reviewing support measures for the industry.

"We are conscious that should our farmers continue to be impacted for an extended period, we will need the government to act quickly and look at some additional support.”

Dairy producers receiving a reduced milk value or having to discard milk as a result of Covid-19 have been urged to continue filling in the group's milk losses survey.

Mr Alvis added: “We presented the first round of data to government last week and we need to continue presenting them with this data. Only by having accurate data can we highlight when additional support is needed.”

Devolved administrations have been urged to follow in Defra’s footsteps, with the NFU saying it is 'concerned' that it covers England only.

"We will work with the devolved administrations to ensure that support reaches all farmers affected," NFU dairy board chairman, Michael Oakes said.



While the fund will be helpful for those under financial strain, the union believes a 'combination of measures' are needed in order to stabilise the industry’s viability.

"Dairy farmers need much better contractual protection than they currently enjoy and that needs to be examined by government as a matter of urgency once we move to the recovery phase of the current crisis," Mr Oakes added.